DAMASCUS – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has offered felicitations to the Arab nation on the liberation of Aleppo city from foreign-backed militants amid an ongoing mission to take out the remaining armed men and civilians from the embattled northwestern city.
In a video posted on the Syrian presidency’s official social media accounts, Assad said the ‘liberation’ was ‘history in the making and worthy of more than the word “congratulations”.’
‘What is happening today is the writing of a history written by every Syrian citizen. The writing did not start today, it started six years ago when the crisis and war started against Syria,’ he added.
‘I think that after the liberation of Aleppo we’ll talk about the situation as … before the liberation of Aleppo and after the liberation of Aleppo,’ he said. The message comes amid reports that a convoy of some two dozen vehicles came out of Aleppo’s al-Amiriyah district and crossed into the government-held Ramussa en route to the remaining militant-held territory in Aleppo Province’s west.
A Syrian official source said almost 1,000 people had left eastern Aleppo in the first convoy, comprising women, children and the wounded. Later in the day, a second convoy of 15 buses left the countryside for government-held parts, according to Syrian state television.
He said 951 people, including 200 militants and 108 wounded made up the convoy. The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that 21 buses and 19 ambulances carrying civilians and wounded have left eastern Aleppo.
Russia’s Defence ministry also announced that the first bus convoy meant to evacuate terrorists was leaving Aleppo’s east. The International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed that efforts had started to pull out some 200 wounded people as part of a ceasefire deal.
Newly-released drone footage showed buses and ambulances moving into the besieged areas of the city. Meanwhile, the Russian Defence Ministry announced that the evacuation of 5,000 militants and their family members from eastern Aleppo has begun, the TASS news agency reported.
An unnamed Russian military official said the evacuations would be carried out through a 21-kilometre-long humanitarian corridor. Russia’s RIA news agency quoted the Defence Ministry as saying that more than 2,000 militants from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) have been killed in Syria in the past year.
The UN Syria humanitarian advisor said on Thursday that Moscow has pledged a pause in anti-terror military operations in Idlib as those militants evacuated from Aleppo are on the way to a militant-held zone of the province.
‘Russians and others assure us that there will be a pause in the fighting … when we assist the evacuation,’ Egeland said. On Thursday, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani offered felicitations to his Syrian counterpart, Hadiyeh Khalaf Abbas, as well as the Arab nation and government on the victories in Aleppo.
The top Iranian parliamentarian described the triumph as a ‘critical juncture’ in the Arab nation’s fight against Takfiri terror groups and their foreign sponsors. ‘This achievement would undoubtedly serve as a prelude to greater victories against terrorism and extremism in the region,’ Larijani said.
The Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement hailed the Syrian army’s victory over terrorists in Aleppo. Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah described Aleppo’s recapture as a ‘critical accomplishment,’ saying the ‘achievement exposed the size of the international conspiracy to divide Syria at the expense of the Syrian people.’
• A full ceasefire is the next step for normalizing the situation in Syria after the liberation of Aleppo, Russian President Vladimir Putin said after talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday.
‘I hope very much that the Syrian army will gain a foothold after successful combat actions in Aleppo and civilians will be able to return to normal life. Several thousand people have already come back to their houses, although they are half-destroyed,’ Putin said.
‘The next stage is reaching agreements on a full ceasefire in entire Syria,’ the Russian leader stressed. All that is happening in Palmyra is a result of uncoordinated actions between the so-called international coalition, the Syrian government and Russia. I have repeatedly said that we should unite efforts for effective fight against terrorists,’ Putin said.
Putin said on Friday he reached an agreement with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during their phone conversation earlier this week to ask the conflicting parties in Syria to hold talks in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana.
‘The day before yesterday in a phone conversation we agreed with President Erdogan that we will offer the conflicting parties – we to the government of Syria and the Turkish president to the representatives of the armed opposition – to continue peace talks at a new venue, and this could be Kazakhstan’s capital Astana,’ Putin said.
If the parties to the conflict – the Syrian government forces and the armed opposition – agree with the proposal, ‘we will ask Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev to back this process,’ Putin said.
‘Judging from what I see, (in Syria) things are happening in accordance with the agreements I reached with the Turkish president during his visit to St. Petersburg. We agreed that Turkey would provide every possible assistance in arranging the exit of those militants who were ready to lay down their arms, first and foremost, to protect civilians,’ Putin said.
Putin said ‘if this happens, this won’t be a venue that will compete with Geneva, but it will complement the Geneva talks.” “In any case, no matter where the conflicting sides meet, in my view, it would be right to do this and to seek political settlement,’ the Russian leader said.
Meanwhile, US President-elect Donald Trump has reiterated his incoming administration’s support for Israel, saying that the ‘bond between Israel and the United States runs deep.’
Trump made the remarks in a statement his transition team issued on Thursday after the billionaire announced his selection of David Friedman, a close adviser, as the next US ambassador to Israel.
‘I will ensure there is no daylight between us when I’m president,’ Trump said. ‘As the United States’ ambassador to Israel, David Friedman will maintain the special relationship between our two countries.’
In response, Friedman said, ‘I am deeply honoured and humbled by the confidence placed in me by President-elect Trump to represent the United States as its Ambassador to Israel.’
He added that he looked forward to ‘strengthen the bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region, and look forward to doing this from the US embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.’
In a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York on September 25, Trump promised to recognise East Jerusalem al-Quds, occupied by Israel since 1967, as ‘the undivided capital of Israel’ if he emerged victor in the November 8 presidential election.